Industry support for UK Agri-Tech Centre – Vince Gillingham

Vince Gillingham
Published: May 7, 2024

Vince Gillingham, Founding Director and Chair, Agri-EPI Centre has been involved in agri-tech development for over 20 years and has seen many significant changes in the sector.

There are lots of benefits from merging the Agri-Tech Centres, notably accelerating our impacts. My own agri-tech company was a founding member of Agri-EPI Centre, of which, I was also a founding director and chair. I started my first agri-tech business over 20 years ago and have watched the sector develop since then.

For example, when I started out in the industry, GPS was novel; only a few tractors had GPS but now most do as standard – the positive impacts on operator safety, precision-farming applications, reduced fuel costs and ergonomics have been huge and it’s great to see that this is now the market standard.

Robotic milking is another example of how things have transformed in the past 20 years. I remember seeing the first robots, but they are now becoming the norm in new dairies. Historically agriculture has moved very slowly, but in the past 20 years so much has happened, accelerated by the Agri-Tech Centres as they have helped develop new products and companies.

While adoption is a priority for UK Agri-Tech Centre a lot more has been achieved than people might think. Agri-tech covers such a wide area; for example, seed-coatings might not be recognised under the banner of “agri-tech” but result from the innovation process, helping farmers become more efficient, sustainable and profitable.

I talk a lot about ergonomics as well. Some tech just makes farmers’ lives easier. Farming is a hard job, but if you can take an hour off for lunch while a system monitors something vital the impact on quality of working life is significant. I see it with my own friends who farm; it used to be set in stone that farmers did not take holidays, but agri-tech is helping bring some normality to life.

Similarly, with tractor GPS systems, if you have to focus on a pin on the end of a tractor bonnet all day, you become exhausted, but if a tractor can steer itself and you can concentrate on other tasks it makes life easier. Agri-tech should help bring about social benefits, not just productivity. The hours that farmers work are not allowed in other industries and agri-tech helps free farmers from the farm.

We’ve only achieved around 20% of the opportunity in the agri-tech space and there are many more areas where we need to become more efficient for example in reaching net zero targets and creating profitability in a world of decreasing subsidies.

Combining the Centres’ capabilities across different disciplines should enable projects to be more successful and deliver more value. We have amazing access to capital and people and to brainstorm to generate ideas within agriculture and food production, but we have to de-risk the opportunities if we are to make them a reality.

I see UK Agri-Tech Centre as a key tool to de-risk the innovation pathway up to investment. It’s about enabling an idea all the way through to solve a problem as a combined entity.

These views are of Vince Gillingham, not of UK Agri-Tech Centre.

If you have any questions about what Vince Gillingham has to say or have any general enquiries about UK Agri-Tech Centre, please contact